AR-News: Canada - Inuit 'Poisoned From Afar' Due to Climate Change

Barry Kent MacKay mimus at
Fri May 14 14:53:25 EDT 2004

World - Reuters Canada

Inuit 'Poisoned From Afar' Due to Climate Change

Wed May 12, 5:15 PM ET

By Amran Abocar

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Inuit living in the Arctic region are being 
"poisoned from afar" as climate change takes its toll on the area and 
threatens their existence, the head of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference 
(news - web sites) said on Wednesday.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chairwoman of the group that represents about 155,000 
Inuit in the Arctic regions of Canada, Russia, Greenland and the United 
States, said Inuit were paying dearly for the actions of people elsewhere.

"The Inuit have now become the net recipients of toxins coming from afar and

we carry heavy body burdens in our blood core and the nursing milk of our 
mothers," Watt-Cloutier told an environmental conference. "Not of our doing,

we are being poisoned from afar."

Inuit say that rising temperatures are undermining traditional lifestyles 
based around hunting for animals like seal, whale, walrus and polar bear.

"For us, the environment is our supermarket," Watt-Cloutier said. "We are 
out there every single day and every day we can't help but wonder what 
surprises lie as a result of the things that are happening."

More thawing permafrost -- the normally perpetually frozen layer of earth --

heavier snowfalls and seas with longer ice-free seasons are some visible 
effects of climate change in the area, she said.

In addition, the region now hosts new species such as barnyard owls, and 
hunters are drowning by falling through thinning ice. U.N. studies say the 
Arctic Ocean may be largely ice-free in summer by 2100.

An assessment to be delivered to foreign ministers of the eight-member 
Arctic Council -- Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Russia,

and the United States -- next November points to a bleak future for the 
Arctic region.

Watt-Cloutier said the report predicts the depletion of summer sea ice will 
push some marine mammals, including polar bears and walrus, into extinction 
by the middle or end of this century.

"So you can well imagine if the polar bear is extinct in 50, 60, 70 years, 
where we will be as Inuit," she said. "This assessment projects the end of 
the Inuit as a hunting culture."

Because they are small in numbers, Watt-Cloutier said the Inuit need to 
partner with other regions threatened by global warming, such as the 
low-lying Pacific Island nations, to put themselves on the political map.

The Inuit group is also petitioning the Inter-American Commission on Human 
Rights, part of the Organization of American States, for a declaration that 
the destruction of their way of life because of human-caused climate change 
is a violation of their rights.

Meantime, Watt-Cloutier said, the rest of the world should pay closer 
attention to the experience of the Inuit in the Arctic. U.N. climate models 
say that global warming is felt first in polar regions.

"Metaphorically speaking, the Inuit are the mercury in the barometer, we are

the early-warning system," Watt-Cloutier said. "Because we are on the land 
every single day, we witness the most minute of changes, so the world has a 
vested interest in keeping the Inuit on the land."


Barry Kent MacKay
Canadian Representative 

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